Alice Weiss


This Torah
its buckling parchment sheets sewn
together with age loosened laces,
rolled in spools and wrapped in heavy
white brocade as if it were winter drapery
stored in the change of the season
and placed at some uncertain time
in a flat in the oldest section
of a once walled city
on a high closet shelf behind
a set of hat boxes tall  enough to hide it,
prior to an enemy attack that came down 
on the commons where goats had once
grazed and children played and
where the bombs exploded into the
high facades of stone houses and
where the debris rained for days,
burned holes in the roof shingles
blocks away and foiled the safety
of the hiding place
never very safe, now though,  
the target of an ongoing drip
of paint and plaster-tinged rainwater
leaving its history in swathes
on the pages, clouds of danger
dissolving the ink
used to inscribe the letters,
yet as if chiseled in stone and carried
down a shuddering mountain,
the scripture remains,  letters
absorbed in the invisible sinewy tissue  
of the parchment delicate as shadows
hold on for dear life, 
insistently gripping the page,
just dark enough to read,
and after, when the hat boxes tumble
into the arms of a spring cleaning housewife  
on a footstool, bemused
by her mother’s strange vanity
in keeping her hats so far above the head
she had held so high, discovers behind them
the long white cloth and the heavy object
it embraced and calls to her husband
to help her carry it down, wiping away
the moldy old cloth and finding
the scroll, intact, and who brings it
to some of her mother’s old friends,
once hidden and retrieved themselves,
who nod silently seeing in the scroll
the mud and the rubble of flights,
and stumbles into unknown countries,
too often hidden and retrieved, and, who
waiting until the setting of the sun, praise,  
against the odds: the tree, the life of the people.



Alice Weiss’ poems have been published in Ibbetson Street 31; Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology; Wilderness House Literary Review; Muddy River Poetry Review, and Jewish  Currents, and recently she has had a poem accepted for publication by the Alaska Quarterly Review.  She has been featured at the Provincetown Poetry Festival, and until 2011 she was the Poet-in-residence at  Am HaYam, the Cape Cod Chavurah. She received an MFA from New England College in 2010. For twenty-one years she was a civil rights attorney and public defender in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She now lives and writes in Cambridge, MA.